Closure Poetry Wrap-Up: A Conversation with Myself
By Yael Tobón Uribe
As I was walking on the street today with People Pt.2 by Agust D playing on my earphones, I realized that it is the end of yet another semester—the ideal time to reminisce about my beginnings in creative writing and as web content creator for Soliloquies Anthology. I cannot believe how much my creative endeavors have changed in just a few months and how close I hold poetry to my heart today.
I started writing short stories when I was ten years old. Since then, I never gave poetry a chance––probably because I was just a child, or because I thought I wasn't good at it. One of the reasons I gave poetry one more opportunity was my professor's motivating comments. I have written about Alexei Perry Cox in the past, but I want to reiterate that I would not be here, writing poetry, if it wasn't for her. Likewise, Soliloquies Anthology allowed me to speak about my cultural background and how it is always profoundly tied in with my work.
As a closure on this first year, I want to look back at the fantastic poets that inspired my writing both in and outside of the Anthology.
“Hombres Necios” by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (You Foolish Men, in English) has to be my memory's oldest poem––not only because it was written in 1689 but also because it familiarized me with the concept of poetry. I was just a child when my mom read this poem to me. When I was younger, it was certainly hard to grasp the meaning behind the Mexican poet's words. Unfortunately, I can relate more to it as I've grown. Through this poem, de la Cruz notes the hypocrisy of many men, stating that they are just as guilty of having the shortcomings they accuse women of having. What gives me chills about this poem is how every single line holds validity up until this day even though it was written 334 years ago.
I have to continue with “Jessica Gives Me a Chill Pill” by Angie Sijun Lou, one of my favorite poems (it is written on my apartment's whiteboard). If I remember well, I found this poem on Pinterest––these few lines were enough to fascinate me.
"Jessica says/I can feel like a cherry/blossom tree wobbling/under lightning. Jessica/has a forehead scar from/the deep end of a pool. I/ask Jessica what drowning/feels like and she says/not everything feels like/something else" (14-22).
This poem inspired me to create art around an imaginary being who does not convey a single identity while representing a generation and/or group of people that have had an impact on my life through their love, words, touch, trauma, and mere existence. I am left wondering what kind of chill pill the poem is referring to because when one reads the whole piece, there are no traces of any chill pill in this possibly romantic relationship between the speaker and Jessica.
The first poem I read in university was “Recreation” by Audre Lorde. I have written about this stunning piece and will continue doing so elsewhere. This poem presented me with the nuanced significance a poem can have depending on the reading––a poem's understanding doesn't only vary from person to person. It can evolve depending on age, life circumstances, identity, race, etcetera. In this poem, Lorde describes a lesbian relationship while comparing it to the art of creating and writing poetry. She also plays with double meanings––starting from the title "Recreation" referring to the (sometimes) endless re-creation of the same artwork through editing and/or writing. The title refers to her desire to write not just for mere leisure, but also for profit and all that comes with the economics of writing.
Poems like “Tomorrow is a Place” by Sanna Wani give me chills for their simplicity and the facility with which they embrace the mundane as a whole. My work is influenced by pieces like “Tomorrow is a Place” due to its unadorned language, exquisite meaning, and intimate tenderness. Wani tangles the reader on her experience of reuniting with a friend after a long time. Time cannot erase love; one laughs, and the other observes how the laughter feels as tangible as the extension of one's body.
"She laughs, and it's an extension of her body. She laughs, and it moves the whole room. I say, My home is an extension of my body, and she says, Most days are better with a long walk" (4-7).
“Sunrise” by Louise Glück is also written on our little whiteboard. This poem's delivery is similar to the former. “Sunrise” did not only influence my writing, but it is a poem I know I can always go back to when things feel heavy. Thyme and rosemary are the main characters in this poem. It manages to create immersive imagery so delightful and powerful that one cannot finish the poem without the smell of these herbs in one's nostrils. Also, the imagery is just immaculate, this poem definitely plays with my senses, and I love it. Glück explores the grief one goes through every time something ends, be it an era or a relationship. People died and we mourn the loss, but some disappeared into one of those places that don’t exist.
"And if you missed a day, there was always the next,/and if you missed a year, it didn't matter,/the hills weren't going anywhere,/the thyme and rosemary kept coming back,/the sun kept rising, the bushes kept bearing fruit—" (19-23)
Last but not least, I want to give a special acknowledgement to the Mexican poets Rosario Castellanos and María Sabina. I have written about Maria Sabina before, and I am still astonished by her healing poetry. A chamana, curandera, and strong woman. Her work and life trajectory remind me of the Earth's power, how deeply rooted we are in it, and that therein lies our medicine. Her poem “You Are the Medicine” is an antidote for itself.
"Cure yourself with the light of the sun and the rays of the moon/With the sound of the river and the waterfall/With the swaying of the sea and the fluttering of birds/Heal yourself with mint, with neem and eucalyptus/Sweeten yourself with lavender, rosemary, and chamomile/Hug yourself with the cocoa bean and a touch of cinnamon. [...]" (1-6)
Rosario Castellanos remains one of Mexico's most influential, multi-talented, multidisciplinary writers. Her work focused on politics, she considered poetry un intento de llegar a la raíz de los objetos. Every single theme she wrote about was deeply tied in with the mundane and the role of the Mexican woman in society. She deeply criticized the sexist society through her work, such as in Lección de cocina, where the woman's role is described as cooking, keeping quiet, and obeying the husband. Castellanos grew up under the shadow of her dead brother and was regarded by her family as useless for being a woman. Rosario Castellanos, therefore, is an inspiring figure to me who, as a writer of color, wishes to transmit my knowledge and folklore through my writing.
Being part of this fantastic team of creative people at Soliloquies Anthology has been an absolute pleasure. In the future, I will continue to cherish these poems I would never have known of if it wasn’t for the incredible writing community here at Concordia. May we embrace the mundane and use poetry to fight for what we deserve.
Jessica Gives Me a Chill Pill by Angie Sijun Lou https://www.muzzlemagazine.com/angie-sijun-lou.html
Recreation by Audre Lorde https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/42579/recreation
Tomorrow Is a Place by Santa Wani https://poets.org/poem/tomorrow-place
Hombres necios que acusas a la mujer by Sor Juana Inés De la Cruz https://www.gavilan.edu/academic/spanish/gaspar/html/4_08.html
Sunrise by Louise Glück https://www.tumblr.com/apoemaday/661315509145452544/sunrise
Let July be July by Morgan Harper Nichols https://studentnewspaper.org/poem-of-the-week-morgan-harper-nichols-let-july-be-july/
Brigitha, Jamain. “You Are the Medicine.” The Caribbean Housewife, 10 Nov. 2020, https://thecaribbeanhousewife.com/you-are-the-medicine/.
Glück, Louise. “A Poem A Day on Tumblr.” Tumblr, 3 Sept. 2021, https://www.tumblr.com/apoemaday/661315509145452544/sunrise.
Sijun Lou, Angie. “Jessica Gives Me a Chill Pill.” Muzzle Magazine, 2018, https://www.muzzlemagazine.com/angie-sijun-lou.html.
Wani, Sanna. “Tomorrow Is a Place.” Poets.org, Academy of American Poets, 2021, https://poets.org/poem/tomorrow-place.